As our 7 month journey slowly comes to a close, our kids wanted to look back and look at their most memorable moments. It was fun looking back and revisiting all that we did during this incredible adventure. Lots of precious memories that we will never forget and now that we know we can do this kind of trip we are now planning our next one! The kids found it quite tough to agree on which places and experiences were best so we opted to provide a full list in no particular order. There was literally too many places to list here and I'm sure when if I ask them the same question tomorrow the whole list will be different again! LOL! Here goes...
Santa Monica Pier & Pacific Park Amusement Park, California
By far the most fun we had while visiting Los Angeles was at Santa Monica pier. The pier is a picturesque place right on the ocean at the end of the famous route 66. The big attraction (other than the amazing ocean beach) is the Pacific Park and amusement rides that sit right on the pier and ocean. Fun, kid friendly roller coasters and carnival-type rides for the kids to enjoy. A great place to spend the day and night chillin' at the beach and heading into the amusement park to burn some of the kids' energy.
Jet Skiing on Lake Havasu, Arizona
Racing Dune Buggies on the famous Oregon Coast
If you ever get the chance to do the Oregon Coast, we highly recommend going to see the famous dunes near Florence and Dune City Oregon. We lucked out and got an amazing campsite at Honeyman State Park just outside of Florence and found a place where we could rent dune buggies to go 'have a rip'! It was a blast roaring around these huge dunes as high as small mountains and quite steep! By far the best moment was when Wendy managed to get her dune buggy stuck within the first 5 minutes of being out there and we had to call a guy to pull her out with their 4x4 truck! After that, it was an awesome time ripping around the dunes and the kids loved every minute of it!
Summer Snow Tubing in Whistler & Exploring Vancouver
The Old Tucson Cowboy Show, Arizona
Rush Mountain Adventure Park, Keystone, South Dakota
Climbing & Exploring the Redwoods of Northern California
Northern California and all the amazing redwoods were such fun for the kids (and the parents). Having an opportunity to walk amongst these giant trees and climb on top of those fallen giants was just so much fun! Madden was in heaven as most hikes were filled with slugs and snails, while Lennon and Shyla loved climbing up and over some of the largest trees in the world. By far our favorite time was finding a cool swimming hole on a river where a massive redwood tree had fallen creating a natural bridge across the river and a great shady spot underneath it to enjoy the gorgeous weather. One thing is for sure that we are not done visiting this part of the world...Northern Cali we will be back to see you again! Can't get enough of the Redwoods!
Alcatraz & Exploring San Francisco
San Fran was such a cool place to visit especially with kids. From the Exploratorium, to the crazy hilly and windy roads to the home of Full House...there was just so much fun for the kids! Alcatraz was a particular favorite and to be honest, I wasn't sure if they would enjoy it or not. It was a bucket list place for Wendy and I and I just hoped the kids would behave enough so we could enjoy it! Instead, Madden fell asleep while Shyla and Lennon listened attentively to the audio tour and they just loved exploring this interesting and spooky place. San Fran was such a great time overall and we wished we had more time to spend here...which means we'll be back!
Tubing Down The Guadalupe River, Texas
Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, Alberta
This journey has brought great memories to all of us on what seems almost everyday. Looking back over the 7 months we've spent in this tiny space makes me so happy to see how our kids have bonded with each other, how many amazing things we've experienced, met so many fantastic families and how we've grown as a family. Its been priceless. Now that we have a taste for this kind of life, we can honestly say that this is only the beginning for us. Plans are underway for our next adventure. Stay tuned for 5FreeSpirits part 2 the sequel!
Ok so we obviously love this camping life and being outdoors as much as we can. Our family unit is closer, marriage is better, health is better, spirits are up and stress is down so this 200 day milestone is a celebration to all we have done so far and what is yet to come. I'm so proud of my husband for taking the leap with me and my kids for adapting so easily to this lifestyle change and all of us really for going after what we want in life. Its not easy to go against the grain of society, but let me tell you once you do it and just go for what you truly want, it is the most fulfilled feeling I have ever felt in my life (well next to having my kids of course). I feel like I took the blue pill in the matrix and now I have a glimpse to what is truly living your dreams and doing what you want with your time.
I just want more now. More freedom to choose and design my own lifestyle, more travel and adventure, more meeting people from all over and learning about everything that interests me. I look at what I used to call my life and I think "holy shit, I wish everyone could feel this way!" This must be a taste of what successful people talk about like Tony Robbins and Tim Ferris to name a few favs. I feel like I know a secret and feel free of social constructs, free of stress, free to choose what to do with my time; which for me is the biggest relief and joy I've discovered along the way. Think about it. How fast does time fly in your life? I know it goes quick, and I especially felt it back in my suburban life which by no means was awful, it was just a calendar filled with daily activities, obligations, appointments, Alex's work schedule and lists of to-do's that were never ending. I did not feel satisfied. I felt time escaped me doing things that kept me busy, but not fulfilled. I got grumpy, tired and depressed that i was not spending time the way I wanted. I was looking for a purpose, but my mind and energy was always elsewhere. If time is one of our most precious resources, why the hell was I wasting it on clutter that kept me from reaching my potential to be happy and fulfilled?
You know that saying on the back of those jeeps those who wander are not always lost. Well that speaks to me because I love wandering, I love learning, I love adventure and freedom and this for me is my happy place. I do not feel lost, but I feel saved and my life feels my own and my time my own. We have put the travel bug in our kids minds, encouraged them to be curious and explore and opened our eyes to a different way of living that we thought we would enjoy and now our goal is to make it happen permanently! Travel with our kids has so many pluses and we are hooked! Even homeschooling is more enjoyable then we originally thought and we just want to keep going, learning and exploring the big beautiful world we live in. Europe and Asia are on our lists of places to visit and even Iceland and an Antarctica cruise will happen too. We still need to finish our Canada and US adventure by hitting the East Coast and the US Eastern Seaboard. I think life is so worth living with pure joy when you have goals, dreams and go after what will fulfill you. I'm so grateful we have done this trip and with only two weeks left before our return to home and those we miss and love, it is bittersweet. I see this next chapter as a planning chapter and charting out our next few years of how and what we as a family want to accomplish to grow and feel fulfilled. I do believe everything happens for reason and God/the universe puts people and experiences in your life to help you move towards your dreams. I cannot wait to see what adventure lies next for our freespirited family as we continue to learn and grow in life. I encourage my children to go after what they want and be bold in life because life is meant for living not waiting, so take risks, take leaps just go for it and you will only grow for the better and maybe find a piece of your puzzle that was missing:)
Happy 200 days on the road 5freespirits!!! Woot Woot I am so proud and grateful
Glacier national park is yet another fantastic animal and nature refuge we are so blessed to have stayed in and explored during this wanderlust adventure of ours. It's full of incredible hikes to sooth my restless soul and fulfill my need to be one with nature. Honestly, I cannot say it enough, but being outdoors, truly outdoors, puts my mind at ease, brings me into the present moment and creates joy to my state of being. I can see it in so many of us as well. I mean we never encounter grumpy hikers or campers and my kids are always happier playing outside and letting their imagination and adventurous sides take over. Glacier park had fantastic mountains to surround us, beautiful lakes to swim in after long hikes and we just did exactly that our entire time there. Hike, explore, swim, play and enjoy the wildlife within the park repeat!
Highlights from our time in Glacier
In mid-July our journey finally brought us to Banff, Alberta and looking back we were quite lucky to have visited here prior to the effects of the devastating wildfires tearing through BC. Apparently, shortly after we left, Banff had some wildfires come close to them as well and the smoke started to cover the skies from the wind blowing in from BC. We were quite lucky to avoid this unlike so many that have been significantly affected by these huge wildfires. Tragically, there are several places that we stayed in BC that are now under an evacuation order and we can only hope the fires don't reach them.
The drive from Jasper to Banff took us through the beautiful Columbia Icefield Parkway which is one of the best drives we've done while on this journey. It ranks right up there with California's Highway 1 and 101, B.C.'s sea-to-sky highway and the Oregon Coast. The biggest difference of course is the enormous snow covered Rockies, glaciers, waterfalls, abundant wildlife and pristine turquoise lakes along the entire drive. I think its my favorite drive so far! Such a great drive to do in the summer...I may want to avoid it in the winter though LOL.
For the first time this trip we managed to meet up with a friend from home which the kids (and us) were so happy and excited for. Our friend Adele met us for a few days in Banff while she was en-route to visit her friend in the Yukon. It was great to hang out with a friend from 'home' for a change even if it was only for a few days...the kids were of course ecstatic to see her and spend time with her.
If you only have a limited amount of time to spend while in Banff I highly suggest going to see this incredible and picturesque lake. Thanks to our friend Katie for the reco! The water here is as turquoise as you can imagine as it just finished melting a month prior to us getting there. As a result, it was a chilly 34F!! If you can manage to bring your own canoe/kayak here you'll save yourself $90 an hour!! We weren't so fortunate, so we had to drop the money to go out on the lake, but regardless this is an absolute MUST DO. Just the most beautiful scenery you can imagine with crystal blue waters, glacial waterfalls, majestic snow-capped mountains and gorgeous wildlife all around you. This was perhaps the most memorable event during our time there.
Summer time is such a beautiful time to visit Lake Louise, but its also the most busy as you can imagine. The weather was incredible, most days in the high 20's which was perfect for us! In order to get to Lake Louise they setup shuttles a few miles out and forced people to park there instead of further congesting the area around Lake Louise itself. The only way to drive close to it is if you are staying at or have a dining reservation for the Fairmont Lake Louise hotel. In our case, we opted to book a dinner reservation there which let us park right at the hotel and make it a bit easier for us. A side note...dinner was excellent at the Fairmont Lake Louise for those interested. The view from the hotel is spectacular and its probably one of the most famous Canadian tourist photos in Canada. Regardless of how busy this place was, its pretty cool still to actually go see it in person and walk along the shores of Lake Louise.
Banff Springs Hotel
We booked ourselves in for a lunch at this hotel while in Banff and we were treated to some interesting ghost stories of this historic place. Apparently (although not entirely confirmed), one of the ghost stories of this hotel was the basis for Stephen King's famous movie The Shining. According to legend, there's a room in the hotel where some unspeakable murders happened many many years ago. After the hotel tried to move past it, future guests staying in that same hotel room reported seeing and hearing blood on the walls and people screaming. This happened so often that the hotel finally decided to close the room forever! They plastered over the door and wall-papered over it to make it seem like there was never a room there when in fact there still is! Its a fun and cool little experience to walk this hallway and stand outside where this room once was! Wendy gave her best impression of Jack Nicholson standing outside the room ("Its Johnny!") LOL! There was some other eerie stories about ghosts elsewhere in this hotel so if you're into the supernatural this is a famous spot to hit while out in Alberta.
Cave and Basin National Historic Site
The Cave and Basin is a cool little place located just past Banff Springs hotel and as we learned, was the birthplace of Canada's National Park system. Years ago, two men found the natural occurring hot springs here and wanted to buy the land. The Canadian government also needed money to extend the railroad out west and saw this hot spring as an opportunity to bring people and raise money for the railroad. The result turned into a nationally recognized reservation of land and the birth of Canada's national park system! How cool is that? The kids enjoyed walking into the cave to see the natural hot springs and they even got to learn about the history of the cross Canada railroad. Lots of fun and lots of Canadiana culture for the kiddies!
Overall, Banff and Lake Louise was a great place to visit, especially if you have never been before. Now that we've been here - we'll probably choose to stay in Jasper again as it much less busy there and you still get the amazing Rockie Mountains with crystal blue waters and tons of wildlife roaming around.